Did Obama Just Deliver Marriage Equality in Maryland?

Obama supporters march in the 2008 Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco, California.Krista Kennell/Zuma


Polls taken since President Obama expressed support for same-sex marriage have shown an astonishing shift in black support on marriage equality. The shift in Maryland is so dramatic that the state may become the first state to actually uphold same-marriage rights in a referendum.

Here’s the gist, from Public Policy Polling:

57% of Maryland voters say they’re likely to vote for the new marriage law this fall, compared to only 37% who are opposed. That 20 point margin of passage represents a 12 point shift from an identical PPP survey in early March, which found it ahead by a closer 52/44 margin.

The movement over the last two months can be explained almost entirely by a major shift in opinion about same-sex marriage among black voters. Previously 56% said they would vote against the new law with only 39% planning to uphold it. Those numbers have now almost completely flipped, with 55% of African Americans planning to vote for the law and only 36% now opposed.

These numbers are almost incredible, and if they hold up, they mean almost certain defeat for the National Organization for Marriage and the other conservative groups lining up to oppose same-sex marriage rights in Maryland. The Maryland legislature passed an equality bill earlier this year, but Maryland same-sex couples won’t been able to marry until after the referendum—and even then only if they win. I’m generally very skeptical of the power of the bully pulpit, but I can’t think of any other reason for this significant a shift than Obama’s decision to come out in support of same-sex couples getting married. 

Understand that exploiting the divide between socially conservative but religiously liberal minority groups and social liberals was the linchpin of NOM’s strategy in Maryland, which is a very blue state with a large black population. NOM simply can’t win without winning black voters, and Obama may have made that impossible. Instead of black voters torpedoeing marriage equality in Maryland, as NOM had hoped, they now stand poised to secure it. 

Adam Serwer is filling in while Kevin is on vacation.

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